New zoning plan ok’ed for Queens neighborhoods

140 blocks rezoned to stop out-of-character development. The Planning Commission unanimously approved an extensive rezoning of two of Queens oldest residential neighborhoods; Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill, both of which have seen a measurable increase in out-of-character development over the past four years. A lot-by-lot analysis completed by the Planning Department found an inconsistency between the existing building types and the zoning, which was unchanged since the City’s initial adoption of zoning districts in 1961. Some districts permitted large 13 to 17-story apartment buildings in areas with single-family, detached homes.

Designed as a contextual rezoning based on the areas’ prevailing building types, the proposal sought to down-zone areas characterized by one and two-family detached homes, such as in Kew Gardens south of Maple Grove Cemetery and west of the Van Wyck Expressway, and increase the permitted size of development in areas that could support it, like the Jamaica Avenue corridor from 102nd to 130th Street in Richmond Hill. The final application covered 140 blocks.

At the January 5, 2005 Commission hearing, only one Kew Gardens property owner opposed, arguing that the rezoning would unfairly limit future development on his lot at 83-30 Austin Street. The owner testified that the lot’s building, a one-story commercial building used as the Kew Gardens Postal Station, was leased to the U.S. Postal Service, and the lease was not long-term. The owner, pointing to photos of two adjacent seven-story residential buildings, argued that the contextual rezoning failed in relation to his lot. Its highest and best use was a similar-sized residential building, but the new zoning would prohibit it. The property owner argued that the adjacent R7A district should be expanded to cover his lot.

The Commission approved the rezoning without any modification relating to 83-30 Austin Street, finding that the rezoning would reinforce the existing building types and stop out-of-character development. The Commission, noting that ULURP allows the owner of 83-30 Austin Street to seek a separate rezoning of his lot, found that a separate proceeding would be the best way to deal with the owner’s request.

ULURP Process: On November 1, 2004, the Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration. Both Queens Community Board 9 and Borough President Helen Marshall approved the rezoning.

At the February 28, 2005 public hearing before the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, the owner of 83-30 Austin Street testified, again requesting that his site be delineated within a zoning district that would allow a large apartment development. Land Use Chair Melinda Katz responded that both City Planning and the Council believed that the owner’s block along Austin Street should be revisited, but she stated that 15 years of community work on this rezoning should not be delayed. Katz noted that the City would work with the owner over the next year.

The Subcommittee approved the rezoning without change and the full Land Use Committee adopted it on March 2, 2005. The full Council is scheduled to vote on the rezoning on March 9, 2005.

CPC: Kew Gardens/Richmond Hill Rezoning (C 050153 ZMQ) (February 2, 2005). CITYADMIN


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